Thursday, November 01, 2007

Life: pond-hopping again

Sigh... At last, I'm off to see my fiancee again after six weeks of separation. And the separation itself wouldn't have been so difficult I think except that we have both been under so much stress. When the world around you is just closing in, you need that other person, that life-partner, there to hold at the end of the day.

As I have told friends back in the states, this place and my month here have been an odd mixture of 'philosopher's paradise' (total academic freedom, access to vast worlds of knowledge, and an amazing advisor) and bureaucratic nightmare (poor institutional organization, dodgy neighborhoods, defunct social telephony services). I'm not sure where it all balances out in the end. It's not bad I suppose, plenty to work with and work on. And I recall that in my first couple month in Bristol I was having a pretty hard time too. So I can look forward to settling in more and a very productive January onward.
I applied for a job at Jamyang Buddhist Centre and interviewed yesterday. The interview went pretty badly on my part. I was worn out and a bit flustered from being late and I did far too little research on Jamyang itself. So when they asked how I would work on certain aspects, like the beautiful Talking Buddhism website, I really had painfully little to offer. I went away feeling that I had been a bit foolish and perhaps over-confident, so not very happy with myself. Luckily I was invited to stay for one of the teachings with Geshe Soepa. He covered a four-fold mind training (lojong) from the Sakya tradition and it really hit home for me.
  1. if you are attached to this life, you are not a religious practitioner
  2. if you are attached to cyclical existence, you are not on the path
  3. if you are striving only for your own awakening, you are not on the Great path
  4. if you do not have correct understanding (of emptiness), you cannot attain Buddhahood.
(I may have got those a little off, but that's the gist of the training) Each step pushes one to think less of mundane concerns and more toward the highest possible service to humanity, and each has deeper explanations that would be familiar to the Tibetan Buddhist practitioner.

What resonated so well with me was the sense of attachment I had come with, attachment to the outcome of the interview and the ensuing deflation when it didn't go as planned. It seemed like each word from the Geshe's mouth and each breath I breathed deeply lessened that sense of unhappiness, helped me let go of my expectations. By then end I was smiling and able to head home with a light heart. Oh well if I don't get the job. It's a wonderful, amazing Buddhist centre and I'd love to work there, so we'll see. If not, I'm sure I'll be back to hear more wisdom and perhaps see if I can volunteer in some way.
In other job news, I did get hired on as a Departmental Student Coordinator here at the college. It's just a 2 hour/week on average job, but it will get me some good inside experience with the History department and with student affairs. The other coordinators and our fearless leader are all great folks (we got to know one another through a 5-hour training and a beer last week), so it should be fun all around.
Studies are going well too. I still haven't found a very peaceful place to get into my work. Everywhere I go there are constant disturbances, diversions, and inconveniences of one sort or another. But I'm making do, finding little moments of inspiration and progress.

I don't understand the intensity of the bureaucracy in England. Nobody I talk to understands it. The Brits don't either, but simply seem to accept it. For instance, phone/internet companies seem to compete for who can be the most complicated and difficult. Right now BT is the hands-down winner, discouraging 3 of my flatmates from getting land-lines through red-tape, long hours on hold, and lack of effort to speak in an understandable tone. Today I was celebrated for fighting through it all to establish our flat's first land line. Yay me. :) Oh yea, and the cost: $500 for installation and the most basic service on the minimum contract. Next step: wireless. Everybody is chipping in on this, so hopefully with about $100 each we can get the phone line and wireless all set up for the year...

Anywho... I've got to pack! 14 hours and I am in the air to see a certain gorgeous redhead!

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